Crack the shell of this insipid romantic farce and you’ll find a smashingly comic satire at the core. Jeff Goldblum, in top form, stars as Dexter King, a tall American actor eager to make it on the London stage. Instead, he’s stuck playing stooge for the egomaniacal comedian Ron Anderson, brilliantly skewered by British top banana Rowan Atkinson. Screenwriter Richard Curtis did straight-man duties in the London hit An Evening With Rowan Atkinson, and director Mel Smith staged the show, so The Tall Guy is art imitating life, only funnier.
Curtis also had a fling with a nurse back then and has foolishly included it as a major plot strand. Emma Thompson does the role with spirit, but the love story is a convention in a movie that does best by breaking them. Fortunately, as soon as King wins the title role in Elephant!, a misbegotten musical version of The Elephant Man, momentum is regained. The Andrew Lloyd Webber school of British musicals is wickedly shafted. Besides such ditties as “Mr. Disgusting” and “Packing My Trunk,” Elephant! features a curtain number that has the dead central character (Goldblum made up as a grotesque pachyderm) rising to the clouds on wires while the ensemble sings, “Somewhere up in heaven there’s an angel with big ears.” For inspired lunacy like this, the dry stretches are worth enduring.